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No one ever thinks about boat trailer insurance, but they will now

by Scott Croft 12 May 06:27 PDT
Which insurance policy covers damage to these boat trailers – auto, home, or boat? © Scott Croft

Most insurance is straightforward, until it's not. When you have an accident or property damage, you file an insurance claim. But filing an insurance claim on a boat trailer isn't so straightforward. That's because it depends on how and what type of damage occurred that will determine which insurance coverage - auto, homeowners, or your boat insurance policy's trailer coverage - that will pay the claim. By looking at some common ways claims happen, BoatUS dissects boat trailer insurance to help trailer boaters understand what they need to know.

If you're driving to the lake with boat and trailer in tow and the trailer is damaged in an accident on the road, it's the separate trailer coverage provided by your boat's insurance policy that will pay for repairs or replacement of the trailer.

Now let's suppose you back your trailer into fence or stone wall, or the trailer strikes someone walking across busy launch ramp parking lot. In these cases, it's your auto insurance policy's liability coverage that would pay for damages to other property or vehicles, or any medical claims. And again, your boat insurance policy's trailer coverage would take care of repairs to the trailer itself.

What happens if while parked in your driveway, a tree falls on your trailer? Winter storms are notorious for damaging boat trailers. There are two possible answers here. It may be the trailer coverage in your boat's insurance policy that will compensate you, or you may also be able to make a claim on your homeowner's policy. However, if a trailer is damaged or stolen when stored at a marina or other storage facility, the separate trailer coverage in the boat's insurance policy will compensate you.

What this all really means is that trailer boaters need to ensure their tow vehicle's (auto) insurance policy includes liability coverage for any damage to others' property while trailering. Next, trailer boaters should ask their homeowners insurance company if the trailer is covered when stored at home. If the trailer is stored at a marina or storage facility, read the fine print in your storage contract as many hold these facilities harmless. Having separate trailer coverage may, again, take care of this.

Not all boat insurance policies automatically provide boat trailer coverage, so ask. Also find out if there are geographic limits on where you may trailer the boat.

If you do choose to add trailer coverage to your boat's insurance policy, ensure that your insurer knows the cost of the boat and trailer separately. If you don't, they may have difficulty in fairly compensating you for a claim.

One final important consideration is roadside assistance. No one wants to leave a disabled boat trailer with your pride and joy on its bunks alone on the side of the highway. While many auto insurance policies offer roadside assistance, boat trailers aren't likely to be included. All BoatUS boat insurance policies include BoatUS Trailer Assist, which will cover towing both a boat trailer and its disabled towing vehicle up to 100 miles. Alternatively, it may be added to a BoatUS membership for an additional $14.

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